How do I control obesity

Obesity The "overweight" problem needs comprehensive measures - now!

There has been extensive research into obesity for many years. In numerous studies, scientists have been able to prove both a genetic predisposition to pathological obesity and causes in lifestyle: too little exercise, too much food available at all times, mostly with high calorie values. Belonging to certain socio-economic groups, educational levels, nations and cultures also plays a role. A problem with complex causes, for which a team of authors at the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has published an equally complex catalog of measures. It contains 10 concrete suggestions on how we can tackle this widespread disease:

1. Set achievable goals in the "struggle on different fronts"

The complex causes of overweight and obesity call for a "battle on several fronts". This includes exercise, nutrition, basic knowledge about nutrition, focusing on quality of life, not exclusively on weight control, treating people with obesity in an appreciative manner, access to medically meaningful therapeutic measures, legal measures and tax policy interventions with regard to trade Gastronomy, and the food providers in public institutions such as schools, kindergartens, train stations.

Prevention is easier than losing weight - the scientists see great potential in prevention. It's easier with children than with adults. Smaller, realistic goals are easier to achieve. So not a comprehensive diet with a sports program, but individual steps such as avoiding sugary drinks, for example. Even a weight standstill, slight weight loss and a better body feeling can be recognized as small successes.

2. Goodbye nutritional sins - eat differently, live differently

Controlling yourself while eating and permanently renouncing sins that have become cherished is an enormous challenge. But it doesn't work without them either. Only those who voluntarily and happily change their eating habits will be able to hold onto them permanently. Psychotherapy and counseling sessions can be helpful. Research projects that test various training strategies for their feasibility and effectiveness are therefore urgently required.

3. 10,000 steps per day - movement possibilities in the daily routine

A major reason for being overweight is lack of exercise. Even recreational and school sports are often not enough to burn the calories we consume - especially not if we have already created large deposits. That is why every natural movement in everyday life such as climbing stairs, walking, running, cycling helps. Studies show that we can balance our food intake with just 10,000 steps a day. This can not only help with weight loss, but also increase our well-being, lighten the mood and even ensure that we eat more consciously. Here, too, it is important: it has to be a bit of joy if success is to be permanent. The scientists at the Leopoldina are also calling for better conditions for more movement, such as a better network of cycle paths, more pedestrian zones closed to vehicles and more inviting stairwells.

4. Don't just lose weight, feel better all around

Anyone who is so overweight that doctors speak of obesity can only dream of great and lasting weight loss success. An achievable goal, however, is an improved quality of life - through a healthier diet and more exercise. Sometimes this can be done indirectly. For example, commitment to nature conservation can have the positive side effect that people exercise more outdoors, socialize, eat healthier in society and thus indirectly benefit from a healthier lifestyle.

5. With appreciation to better self-esteem

We often associate negatives with obesity, such as weak will, lack of discipline, laziness. We have prejudices and we exclude those affected. For them this is an additional emotional burden that can lead to depression. If sick people regulate this by continuing to eat unchecked, a vicious circle closes. If we know more about the background of being very overweight, we can treat those affected with more appreciation and thus strengthen their self-confidence - this is how the scientists at the Leopoldina see it.

6. When goodwill alone is not enough - therapy options

In the case of particularly serious illnesses, changing your lifestyle on your own will not help. Comprehensive guidelines document the effectiveness of various therapies for obesity. After a detailed diagnosis, this includes nutritional, exercise and behavioral therapies. On the other hand, cognitive training measures often only have a limited effect. All therapeutic measures not only focus on the person affected, but also on their social environment. The scientists also see potential for education and prevention via digital networks.

7. Living healthier must also be fun

To make it easier to rethink and change your behavior, there are a few tricks, the effectiveness of which has now also been scientifically proven. We speak of "nudging" when our environment invites us to live healthier: when the vegetable plate is already there, when we have a bike that rolls well and makes it easy for us to move, for example . It is important that we still have a self-determined scope for action. So you could, for example, reach for chocolate, but you have to take a detour and buy it first. This would also invalidate the argument of the critics who regard a corresponding re-sorting of sweets in the supermarket as "incapacitation".

"Boosting", on the other hand, is about strengthening ourselves in such a way that we can resist the temptations from the snack shelf. This is mainly done through knowledge. Because if we are aware of where excessive chocolate consumption can lead us, we may lose our appetite. The scientists see huge potential here, especially for children. They orient themselves to the habits of their parents and live according to the rules that they set up. The families thus have the greatest influence on their offspring.

8. Bans on advertising and higher taxes on unhealthy foods

The state must also be on board when it comes to avoiding obesity. Advertising bans for unhealthy foods are intended to ensure that consumers' need for them decreases. With higher taxes and thus higher prices for chips, cola and Co., the inhibition threshold should be raised to buy them. In France and Mexico this is already the case for beverages with a high sugar content. Denmark taxed foods high in saturated fats from 2011 to 2013. Most studies on this, however, show that prices have to rise significantly in order to achieve the desired effect.

9. What Hanschen doesn't learn ...

In our childhood our habits are decisively shaped and with them our eating and exercise behavior and our preferences in this regard. It is known from longitudinal studies that one can certainly predict future health behavior from the extent of self-control in childhood and adolescence. So if you get an awareness of this as a child through your own family and in kindergarten and school, it will be easier later on. This includes regulated, balanced meals and exercise. Not to mention the disadvantages that obese children have to endure: They are teased, are less agile and will always have a hard time losing their excess weight.

10. Whoever produces food bears responsibility

That is why the scientists at the Leopoldina see great potential in them to participate in obesity prevention. Although it is always about economic interests and competition, there are concepts that show how our "nutritional environment" can be changed in the medium term through a continuous review of what is on offer. However, all economic, political, social and medical actors must participate in this.

These recommendations and suggestions from the National Academy of Sciences "Leopoldina" are based on numerous studies that are listed in the committee's original paper.